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The Man of God and the old prophet (and don’t forget the shriveled hand!)

1 Kings 13 has an interesting little scene. The book was written about 550BC. It’s rich with drama, meaning, and life lessons even for us at this telescoped end of time. The chapter 13 I’d read yesterday regarded the coming destruction of the false altar at Bethel, and the king Jeroboam, who’d allowed it and even served as priest there. “A Man of God” was tasked with bringing the King a message about the false worship at Bethel and God’s extreme disapproval of it.

There are so many lessons in this chapter. We could look at the chapter in terms of the idolatrous worship … or the precision of God’s pronouncements …or how we must believe His word … or what constitutes right worship … or how God formerly authenticated His word by signs … but I’m not focusing on any of those wonderful lessons today. First, I’ll recap.

God sent a Man of God (AKA prophet) to speak truth to King Jeroboam. ‘Man of God’ is a title Paul designated to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:11) and also was given in the Old Testament to Moses (Deuteronomy 33:1), David (Nehemiah 12:24), Elijah (1 Kings 17:18) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:7). The phrase designates the man as set apart and having a unique relationship with God and bringing missives originating in God and from God. The Man of God AKA prophet is God’s special representative, one whom God has personally chosen and sent.

The Man of God pronounced judgment upon the King by prophesying a future King emerging from the house of David (which Jeroboam hated) who will be born 360 years into the future named Josiah who will pull down the false altars, pour out the ashes onto the ground (unclean) and burn human bones on them (indicating a slaughter of the false priests).

The King did not take the message lightly and stretched out his hand, pointed to the Man of God, and said ‘seize him!’ The King’s hand withered, a sign that the messenger was true. After some pleading and tears, the King’s hand was restored and the Man of God went his way.

God had said not to stop for hospitality anywhere at any time, in fact, to go home another way. The Man of God refused hospitality at the King’s table (after the King’s hand was restored), a huge snub in the Middle East and a further message not to consort with Jereoboam. But then we see the Man of God idly sitting under an oak tree. He is not hurrying, he has no sense of urgency to leave the idolatrous area.

Here comes is the interesting part.

“He … found him sitting under an oak” (1 Kings 13:14). It must be considered significant that the man of God was idly resting under an oak tree instead of returning to Judah, and the man could not have been blameless, because God had dearly instructed him to waste no time on his mission. Many a servant of God has been overcome with disaster in a moment of idleness. Coffman Commentary

Compare with Abraham’s servant sent to fetch a wife for Isaac. In Genesis 24:33, the servant would not eat until he had spoken his piece. Afterward, he was urged to delay his departure, but the servant still would have none of it, even though the wife had been obtained and seemingly, his mission was done. He said, “Do not delay me, since the Lord has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go to my master.” (Genesis 24:56).

Abraham’s servant kept the LORD first.

Back to the 1 Kings 13 chapter. There lived another prophet from the immediate area. The prophet’s sons came to him and told what had happened with the King. The old prophet purposed to go find this Man of God. The prophet did not repent. He did not fall on his face. He did not go to the King. He made a plan, a dastardly plan instead, to seek out the messenger.

He asked his sons which way the Man of God went. He asked his sons to saddle the donkey. He went out searching for the Man of God. He took time and effort to seek out the Man of God. Note this. When the prophet found the Man of God, he asked the Man of God to eat with him at his house. The Man of God said no, I can’t. I must go my way.

Here is where the prophet’s plan gets dastardly. Up to now one might defend him, might, thinking he wanted to speak further with such a Man of God, learn from him, pray with him. Perhaps a case could be made for the old prophet’s good will. But here the Bible plainly says, the old prophet lied.

He told a whopper. The old prophet claimed to have heard from God, via an angel, bearing a message that directly contradicts the Man of God’s previous command. The old prophet said the angel told him that God said it was now OK to come and eat and stay.

There is such a thing as an earthly chain of command. The command hierarchy is there for a reason. Even more so in dealing in spiritual warfare. If you have orders from the General of the Army, and you receive a contradictory order from a Captain, what will you do? Seek verification, of course.

One might wonder why the Man of God didn’t seek verification from the LORD of hosts.

In any event, the man of God was quite foolish to believe the words of the lying pretender. Would God have told the man of God one thing and then have contradicted it by sending an authentic word by another? “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1). Although not stated, there appears to have been an unworthy desire on the part of the man of God to return, and, where there is an antecedent willingness, there is always provided by the Evil One an opportune invitation to do wrong.

The Bible never said why the old prophet lied. He had his reasons. Likely jealousy, power, or greed, the usual sins behind why people lie. How devastating to know the old prophet used God as a cover in his lie!

As Coffman said above, the Man of God is not without culpability. He lingered, he listened to the old prophet, and he failed to seek verification of the message allegedly from God. He did not keep God first, but disobeyed God to satisfy an appetite. Soon after, he was killed on the road home by a lion.

Today there are a lot of the types of ‘old prophets’ running around claiming to be men and women of God and teaching lies. They say, ‘an angel from God told me to tell you’ … When you listen to one of today’s (false) Bible teachers, and they pronounce some kind of revelation from God they’ve allegedly received, it will be obscure and ambiguous. “I see a coming outpouring…” or “I believe that the Lord has placed it on my heart to tell you…”

Remember the clarity and precision with which the Man of God in this chapter pronounced God’s word to Jeroboam. It was given expressly, authenticated by a miraculous sign, and came true perfectly as stated 360 years later.

Take aways:

–The man (and woman) of God needs to keep God first.
–Obey God as exactly as possible.
–Be purposeful in our duties.
–When listening to other ‘men of God’, verify the message.
–There are people who claim to be of God who are just liars who work hard at catching you in order to speak lies and divert you (and me) from our duties.
–Let us not be caught lingering under a tree. Being purposeful and productive makes us harder to catch.

The warning for present-day Christians in this is clear enough. There are many pious, attractive, and pretentious religious propositions in our own times that, in the last analysis, are nothing but lies, dressed up with every plausible appearance of authenticity by the devices of Satan, but still unqualified lies. Coffman’s Commentary

The Old Testament is a wonderful wonderful book. I’ve been camped out on this chapter for two days and I barely scratched the surface of meaning and illumination. What a great gift the Bible is!

 

Spiritual warfare is real

This post appeared on The End Time on May 24, 2011.

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I was at some friends’ house, and after dinner we played a Bible trivia game. Here is one of the questions:

“How many angels are named in the Bible?” At first blush the answer seems easy. Can you guess? Pause.

Answer: Three. Michael, Gabriel, Lucifer. Most of the teams gave the answer as two, Michael and Gabriel. Those two are easy to remember, but we forget Lucifer was an angel, who is that old serpent, satan.

Angels have many jobs.

Luke 1:19 we read of the messenger angel Gabriel-

The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.”

In Daniel 10:13 we read of Michael the warrior angel, who is an archangel-

But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; and I remained there with the kings of Persia.

Paul reminds us of the hierarchies of angels, both good and fallen:

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him (Colossians 1:16)

Ephesians 6 is the famous chapter where Paul reminds us that we are in enemy territory here on earth, that the territory has a hierarchy, and that we are always at war, (whether we know it or not):

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:12)

We often forget about Lucifer as an angel, his name means star of the morning, or shining one. Isaiah laments Lucifer’s fall from the high holy place of guarding God’s throne, to his low position of evil rebel destined for the hell (Matthew 25:41).

Hebrews and Revelation together show us that about a third of the angels fell with Satan. (Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 12:3-9). Hebrews also reminds us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2).

If angels visit us and engage with us on a personal and even intimate level (‘hospitality’ translated, “in one’s home”, “receive as a guest”) then who is to say that we are always visited by the good angels? Sometimes we are visited by the bad ones, too. Probably more than sometimes, probably we’re visited by them often.

I was in another friend’s home, and I mentioned that a pastor’s latest series is on spiritual warfare. She replied, “Oh! I don’t even like to think about spiritual warfare!” I was stunned by this, she being a seasoned Christian. I remarked that we are at war whether we like to think about it or not.

Not only are we in war against the principalities and powers and rulers of darkness, but we are war against our own sin nature!

Because of sin, the earth is a battlefield. Satan and his angels battle for souls every day. 1 John 5:19 tells us that the entire earth is under the jurisdiction, so to speak, of the evil one. In Luke 4:5-6 satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, and in one of the temptations, offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus didn’t rebuke satan for making that claim.

In Ephesians, Paul tells us to pray and to wear our spiritual armor. 1 Timothy 1:18 Paul tells Timothy to prepare for the battle. 2 Corinthians 10:2-4 describes the kind of war we Christians are in. There is war-like language all throughout the New Testament, referring to the fact that we ARE in a war. It is a spiritual war, but a war that has eternal consequences for each participant.

I was struck by the two incidents – the Bible trivia question about Lucifer where it was so easy to forget he is really an angel, and the Christian who dismissed spiritual warfare topics as something unsavory she doesn’t like to think about.

Christian, be aware that we are dwelling in enemy territory, and this is not our home. Our own flesh and blood is an enemy.

We are unwanted intruders on earth. We are under attack all the time. Not daily, but frequently and constantly. We are attacked by demons, by our own sin, and by the curse of the world. We are in a war and that war will not be concluded for us individually until we die or are raptured. That war for all of us as a body in Christ will not end until after the 1000 year Kingdom when satan will be let out of the pit, will foment one last war and he will be squashed and sent to the lake of fire forever.

But remember an even greater truth. Unlike every other warrior who ever fought in a war, we know the outcome prior to the war’s end! We may be battling, but “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4).

Jesus won the war for us, on our behalf and in obedience to the Father’s will. Jesus is the victor, and through Him we win the war. So, battle on in confidence, but never forget we are in a war.

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Further reading

Sometimes the subject of spiritual warfare draws out people who teach wacky theories or treat the subject either to lightly or too heavily. Here are some credible resources on the subject I can recommend

Truth or Territory: A Biblical Approach to Spiritual Warfare, book by Jim Osman

John MacArthur sermon series: Spiritual Warfare: Fighting to Win

Ligonier article: Our Ancient Foe

Prophecy thoughts

Here are various thoughts on prophecy from me.

When men misuse the teachings of the Savior for their own evil ends it is a heinous thing to watch. It is written, “But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;” (2 Peter 2:12).

God means what He says. He will not be used, abused, or mocked.

Apostasy is a brutal condition, far worse than most Christians think.

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Often, the bible will predict owls to come to roost on places that are waste places, or ruins, or uninhabited. Same with vultures and eagles. The picture that had formed in my mind of reading the articles related to the snowy owls coming to roost silently all over the US was the verse of the angel at the end of the Tribulation calling the birds to feast on the dead. It is called The Great Supper of God

And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God,” Rev 19:17.

This moment is after Jesus bursts back onto earth on a white horse with His saints following, and slays all those hundreds of millions assembled at the battle of Armageddon. The angel then calls to the birds to come eat the dead.

Ezekiel 39:17 at the end of the Gog-Magog war depicts God’s use of His birds

Son of man, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Call out to every kind of bird and all the wild animals: ‘Assemble and come together from all around to the sacrifice I am preparing for you, the great sacrifice on the mountains of Israel. There you will eat flesh and drink blood.”

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No matter how serious the news is, His constancy, His sovereignty, His plan, and His ways are Good. Even if you feel you do not have much to praise Him for, you DO! Seek ways to thank Him. He is active in our lives to the n-th degree. Nothing escapes His hand, from the most high work of salvation of souls, to the smallest sparrow’s needs. How much more, then, are YOU valuable to Him? (Matthew 6:25-26)

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Despite the Great Tribulation to come for the Jews, for the Middle East, for all those left behind who delayed their decision to repent and were not raptured, the LORD is merciful! He saves His people personally, from the first day to the last days invading Gog-Magog coalition. He says He will send mercy upon the Jews, look at this verse-

I will no longer hide my face from them, for I will pour out my Spirit on the house of Israel, declares the Sovereign LORD.” (Ezekiel 39:29)

He will pour out His spirit. POUR. Not ration it out. Not mete it out. Not distribute it. Not send it. Not give it. POUR it. When you pour something it means “To stream or flow continuously or profusely.” The Hebrew word in use here means translated, “to gush”. That is what I mean by the LORD being merciful. He gives so freely, so copiously. He is good and gracious. He has not forgotten His people the Jews, nor will He forget His sheep living now on a fallen earth with terrible sins all around.

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JESUS IS COMING SOON! He has always been imminent. I pray you live with that imminence in your heart and mind.

Brethren, examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith.

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test?” 2 Corinthians 13:5.

It would be devastating to fail the test. How do you know that you are in the faith?

Because you are sensitive to sin.

Because when you are tested, your faith grows stronger, not weaker.

Because you bear forth fruit

How to detect a false conversion

Jerusalem is the center of the world

The United States officially recognized Jerusalem as its capital, and moved the embassy there. President Trump said that every sovereign nation has the right to declare its own capital, and instituted the move, based on a 1995 Congressional decision

President Trump touted the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem on Monday as tensions in the region escalated over the decision.

Israel is the middle of the world, and the world’s war drums beat loudly around her
Israel is the center of the world. We know this because in Genesis 12:3 God said to Abraham- “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Israel is the lens through which God judges nations. What happens to Israel affects the entire world. (Above, Bünting clover leaf map. A 1581 woodcut, Magdeburg. Jerusalem is in the center, surrounded by Europe, Asia and Africa.)

Other nations and cities have incorrectly named themselves the center of the world. When Rome was at its height as a city and as an empire, it called itself the center of the world and even marked the spot with a tower and a plaque. The Romans installed the marker dubbed “navel of the city of Rome” (Umbilicus Urbis Romaen) in the Forum, from which all distances to the ends of the civilized world were marked. It was mile zero. This marker was one of the first things I had wanted to see when I visited Rome, because my travels around Italy, even over obscure and distant dirt back roads, invariably led to a road sign pointing to Rome. It is true, in Italy, all roads lead to Rome.

Ecuador is named after the equator, which runs through the country. A museum complex marks the spot and it is called “Mitad Del Mundo” or Middle of the World. Wikipedia says its 30-meter-tall monument, built between 1979 and 1982, was constructed to mark the point where the equator passes through the country in the geodetic datum in use in Ecuador at that time. I was one of the thousands of goofy tourists who have stood with one foot on one side of the painted red line representing the Equator, and the other foot on the other side, laughing while someone takes a photo of me. It was an interesting place, and I really liked the red line of the physical representation of the middle of the world. (photo right, of the Mitad del Mundo, by Elizabeth Prata)

But Jerusalem is really the navel of the world. In the Middle Ages it was even depicted that way. Did you know, that the Hereford Mappa Mundi, drawn in circa 1300, depicted Jerusalem as the center of the world? In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem there is also an omphalos, Greek word for belly button or navel. The existence of this stone is based upon the medieval thought that Jerusalem is the spiritual if not geographical center of the world.

In all of history, there’s never been a distinct people group who dwelled outside of a national homeland for thousands of years yet retained their identity like the Jewish people. There has never been a people on earth restored to their homeland after dozens of generations. There has never been a case where generations upon generations who forgot their own language and let it die, had it restored to the entire nation. No people, that is, except for God’s people in God’s land.

This tiny nation is mighty in many ways, because her very existence has generated hate and war since her birth. Just existing provokes the world into hating her. Allowing her to make her own sovereign decisions as a nation inflames the world (satan).

And again, war will come to her but that time it will be one of the last times. We know from prophecy that the Gog-Magog war will be a surprise attack on Israel as stated in Ezekiel 38-39. We know that Damascus will be destroyed (Isaiah 17:1) indicating some kind of war-like event that obliterates the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city. Psalm 83 has variously been interpreted as either an intercessory prayer about a war, or a foretelling of a last days war. And Armageddon, the last war, will occur. The list of wars is long. There will be so many wars that peace does not exist anywhere from the moment the 2nd seal is opened in Rev. 6:4 when peace is taken from the earth, until Jesus returns to restore peace Himself.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
“May they be secure who love you!
7Peace be within your walls
and security within your towers!”
8For my brothers and companions’ sake
I will say, “Peace be within you!”
9For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
I will seek your good.
Psalm 122:6-9

Holy Fear: The Great Earthquake, part 3/3

This series first appeared on The End Time in March 2011. Today’s essay has been edited & updated.

Part 1 here
Part 2 here

“The earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because He was wroth.” (Psalm 18:7).

The USGS essay regarding the historical New England earthquake of 1727 and its aftermath continues

“The people of New England were affected by this earthquake as they had never been before, being fearful of divine judgments for their sins and lax responsiveness to the call to religious duties. The clergy taught them that it was “a loud call to the whole land to repent and fear and give glory to God.” The next morning great numbers of the inhabitants of Boston gathered at the old North church for prayer and other religious services. The fear of further immediate danger was somewhat dispelled in the pleasant sunlight, but as soon as the sun had set their fright returned, and in greater numbers than in the morning the people crowded to the old Brick church, which could not hold them. The old South was then opened, and those who failed of admission to the Brick church flocked thither, and that was also filled. Rev. Thomas Paine of Weymouth, Mass., and some other ministers, tried to prove to their congregations that the earthquake had not a natural cause, but was a supernatural token of God’s anger to the sinful world.”

“The selectmen of Medford, Mass., appointed the next Wednesday as a day to be observed by fasting and prayer on account of the earthquake; and Lieutenant-governor Dummer recommended that Thursday should be kept in the same way for the same purpose throughout the province. Many sermons delivered on the latter and other days were printed and are still extant. In Salem, Mass., a meeting was held on Saturday at the upper meeting-house (then so called) which was attended by the largest congregation that was ever in that edifice.”

They repented, the fasted, they prayed, and they entreated. The people fell down before a mighty God and supplicated in proper Holy Fear.

In his sermon “A Holy Fear of God and His Judgments” John Cotton defined Holy Fear:

–Trembling for fear of God implies our solemn an awful apprehensions of the great God, who brings such judgments upon us

–Trembling for fear of God means that we are sensibly touched and affected with the consideration of the judgments that are or may yet be brought upon us.

–Trembling for fear of God means our humbling ourselves exceedingly before Him who is thus visiting and threatening us.

Do we tremble? Rarely. We strut, we dismiss, we forget the power He wields, and holds back. Holy Fear, repentance, and awe of His majesty are not popular topics today. Prosperity, ecstatic experiences, all paths leading to heaven are the topics of today, when the bible is even referred to at all.

I remember the bright fall day of September 11, 2001. I was in my newspaper office happily writing the last of the articles for upcoming publication, and then my world shattered. Planes smashed into the Twin Towers in NYC, the Pentagon in Washington DC (where we lost a home town boy) and into the Pennsylvania ground. Our complacency was gone and the world never looked the same after that day.

More to the point, the event shook all of us in America. The next Sunday, churches were full. People wanted – needed – answers. Intuitively we knew any answers that came from ourselves would be inadequate. We sought them from ‘somewhere or something else.’

The rush to church was short-lived, as it inevitably must be in a pagan nation.

After 9/11, a short-lived rush to church: Mark Chaves on how church business boomed briefly after 9/11

Church Attendance Back to Normal

Repenting. Falling down on our faces. These are proper responses when disaster strikes. It’s intuitive that people do these things because as Romans 1:18-20 shows us, we all know, saved or not, that God exists and is in control-

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Do we weep day and night for our own sins, faults, and failures? Do we weep for neglecting to give glory to God? We do not react thus: “When I heard, my belly trembled; my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself.” (Habakkuk 3:16).

We shake our heads at the poor folks way over there experiencing natural disaster, such as the Hawaiians losing their homes to the volcano, and we move on. We do not do the first and proper thing: repent. I am talking to believers who may have forgotten what it means to be a sinner falling into the hands of an angry God.

Why are not the churches in America full today? Why are not people weeping at altars, seeking forgiveness? Do we evidence a Holy Fear? No, we talk of prosperity with a flashy smile.

Rev Cotton finishes, “Oh, what need we have then to cry mightily unto God that He will make the impressions lasting on the souls of parents, children, young, old, rich, poor, bond and free! We have done it already. We will continue to do it, and we hope the Lord will not turn away our prayers nor His mercy from us.”

Will the dreadful impressions of God after 9/11-Japan quake-Indian Ocean Tsunami-Joplin tornado swarm-Hawaiian volcano- etc last in you? In me? It is an awesome thing to see His power in creation. It’s even more powerful to see His work in a human soul.

Give glory to God for His power. Give glory to Jesus by repenting, and living an obedient, honorable, and moral life in Him.

Holy Fear: The Great Earthquake, part 2/3

This series first appeared on The End Time in March 2011
Part 1 here

The events of late summer-early Fall in New England, described in Part 1 of this three-part essay, were fear-inducing to a high degree. The strange events culminated in an earth-shaking display of mighty power, ripping into the consciousnesses of thousands of slumbering Colonials at a quiet moment in the middle of the autumn night. People ran shrieking out of their homes in their night-clothes, never having experienced such an earthquake before.

Then as now, people try to make sense of the events. Many a preacher was spiritually burdened to preach about it on the next Sunday, and one such was the New England preacher, John Cotton. (1693-1757). The old Puritan preachers were learned, well-versed in the bible, and devout. Most importantly, they preached the correct response to an earth-shattering event: Holy Fear.

We don’t evidence much Holy Fear these days, it is not a popular topic. But Rev Cotton did, and here are a few excerpts to his eminently readable and wonderful sermon. I encourage you to read it in its entirety. Part 3 of this essay will examine how the people of today respond to a similar earth-shaking event. In his sermon, Rev Cotton lays out the procession of thought throughout:

————-begin John Cotton sermon————–

 

DOCTRINE. The condition and circumstances of a people may be such that their flesh may well tremble for fear of God, and they may wisely be afraid of His judgments. In the prosecution of this doctrine I will show:
1. What is meant by the judgments of God and what judgments we are exposed to that we ought to be afraid of.
2. What is meant by trembling for fear of God and being afraid of His judgments.
3. That our condition and circumstance are such that we have abundant reasons and occasions to tremble and be afraid.

A Holy Fear of God and His Judgments
by John Cotton (1693-1757); Preached November 3, 1727
My flesh trembleth for fear of Thee; and I am afraid of Thy judgments” (Psalm 119:120)

To fear God means that we adore His sovereignty and righteousness even in His awful dispensations and that we employ our serious, devout, and solemn thoughts on these an other glorious excellencies and perfections of Almighty God displayed in His judgments. They must be the subject of our frequent and solemn meditations so that we may always maintain in our hearts suitable apprehensions of the great God who sends His judgments upon us.

Surely the consideration thereof should fill us with the greatest fear and concern of spirit that God has been so provoked that He has had to come out against us in His anger and to threaten our utter ruin and desolation

Did we ever have more reason to stand trembling before God under fearful apprehensions of impending vengeance when we consider the many scandalous, provoking evils abounding among us including oppression, injustice, fraud, deceit, falsehood, evil speaking, pride contention, intemperance, drunkenness, unchastity, excessive and inordinate love of the world, and may I add, the rudeness and profaneness of young people? God Himself, and our duty to Him, is evidently neglected and forgotten by many, and a form of godliness is maintained and kept up without the life and power of it. The sacred and dreadful name of God is dishonored and blasphemed by profane cursing and swearing. His holy Sabbaths, instead of being strictly observed and sanctified, are very much profaned by idle, vain, trifling and unsuitable conduct. Some forsake the house of the Lord, frequently neglecting and needlessly staying away from the public worship of God. Has not manifold contempt been put upon the Lord’s holy ordinances and institutions? Are there not many who disregard coming to them in a serious and worthy manner? Must we not acknowledge that mutual Christian love and charity grow cold? Are not both the love of men to God and the love of men to their neighbors treated with a visible coldness and indifference that clearly mark the lack of the power of godliness? Alas, for this people!

Are not the iniquities I have just described, and many more, prevailing among us and testifying against us, loudly proclaiming our impiety and great degeneracy, declaring that we are an impenitent, incorrigible, and unreformed people still, ripening rapidly for a destruction without remedy? Surely then, if this is the case with us, we have reason to tremble for fear of God and to be greatly afraid of His judgments. We might wisely be afraid of temporal plagues and judgments of a far heavier and sorer nature than we have yet been visited with, for the transgressions of God’s covenant people are exceedingly provoking to Him and richly deserve to be severally punished. I beg of you, do not forget that our sins are the more offensive and provoking to God for we are a people in covenant with Him.

What awful symptoms there are of blindness and hardness of heart right in our midst. Ought we not to fear that men are dreadfully blinded and hardened in their sins when there is not so much as external reformation in connection with such an awful judgment of God as this earthquake?

We learn from this text that it is not cowardly to be afraid of God’s judgments but very agreeable to true Christian courage.

God is no fit match for us to contend with. No one has ever hardened himself against Him and prospered (Job 9:4). He is our Creator, we are His creatures. We are as clay in the hands of the potter. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. God cannot err on His end, as the princes of this world may in the execution of their displeasure through impotency or want of knowledge, for He is infinite in knowledge, wisdom, and power, and there in no comparison between infinite and finite. It is not cowardly then to fear God. Our Saviour advises us,

Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)

Such wise fear is agreeable to true Christian courage. This should be expressed in our lives by maintaining a reverential fear of God upon our minds, in fighting against the enemies of our salvation; in mortifying our lusts; in steadfastly persevering in all the duties of our holy religion; in not disobeying His commands, despising His judgments, scorning His rod or setting ourselves in opposition to His threatening, which is the most daring and prodigious folly and madness and will be found so in the end.

How very surprising and amazing was the first sudden shock and convulsion we felt! Our houses and beds were shaking, and the earth was trembling and reeling under us like, I suppose, none ever felt in this part of the world before. And how many times has the awful noise been repeated, though not to such a fearful degree? Well may the people in this city and in the country round about be filled with the surprise and consternation of which we see and hear. Multitudes seem to be under great conviction, distress, and concern about their soul and eternity. Oh, that the impressions might abide until conversion to God is accomplished and the great work of their salvation is completed.

————-end Cotton sermon—————-

Rev Cotton was fearful that the initial impressions regarding a just, angry, and powerful God would diminish in the light of day and diminish even further as time passed. How well the Reverend knew the sinful nature of craven men. But the response Cotton preached is the ONLY proper response to a God who is wroth with us. He is the Creator, we are His creatures! We are clay in the hands of the potter. We should fall down before Him, seeking forgiveness as we entreat Him to forgive our sins. But do we? Part 3 coming up.

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‎Gardens of Damascus

‎Gardens of Damascus

No wonder the Moslems look upon Damascus as an earthly paradise. It is encompassed by gardens and orchards. These cover an area of over twenty-five miles in circumference. Here grow olive, fig, walnut, apricot, poplar, palm, cypress and pomegranate trees. In the above view we have a scene taken from the Jerusalem road in the western part of the city, and looking to the north a ridge of Anti-Lebanon is seen straight before us. In the richness of its soil, in the salubrity and semi-tropical character of its climate, in its varied vegetation, we find the reason for the constant association of Damascus with the thought of gardens.

It has been for four thousand years a garden. It is surrounded for miles with this splendor of verdure. Its gardens and orchards and far-reaching groves, rich in foliage and blossoms, wrap the city around like a mantle of green velvet powdered with pearls. The apricot orchards seem to blush at their own surpassing loveliness, and the gentle breezes that rustle softly through the feathery tops of the palms are laden with the perfume of the rose and the violet. Tristram, in his account of what he saw, says:

“Tall mud walls extended in every direction under the trees, and flowing streams of water from the Barada everywhere bubbled through the orchards, while all was alive with the song of birds and the hum of bees. The great apricot trees were laden and bent down under strings of ripe golden fruit.” Whatever changes may be made by the hand of man in Damascus, whatever changes in government and in commercial activities, the city is sure to be for all time a paradise of fertility and beauty.

Vincent, J., Lee, J., & Bain, R. E. M. (1894). Earthly Footsteps of The Man of Galilee and the Journeys of His Apostles. New York, NY;St. Louis, MO: N. D. Thompson Publishing Co.

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